It was a bright idea and hue can’t argue with that.
Weston Park Museum is being turned into a riot of vivid colours and intense pigments as part of a six month long exhibition starting this week. Reds and yellows, greens and blues, and a shade called Perkin’s mauve - the world’s first ever synthetic dye, fact fans - will all be on show as part of Colour Coded.
“I’m pretty sure,” muses curator Kirstie Hamilton, “this is the only exhibition in the country where you can see a bright yellow pineapple-shaped ice bucket from the Sixties.”
She may be right. More on why that’s there later...
For now, Colour Coded is an explosion of more than 150 bright objects from across the world and down the ages - all taken from Sheffield’s private collection. The only criteria for inclusion in the show? “The items had to be completely vibrant,” says Kirstie. “And they had to have an interesting back story.”
Thus, we have stuffed North American birds which are almost psychedelic blue; yellow silk shoes from 18th century England (better than your average Vans); and a range of bold children’s cutlery designed by Sheffield’s own David Mellor. There’s a Victorian wedding dress in bright purple (or Perkin’s mauve, as was known), a seriously swish-looking 1930s Sheffield University jacket (royal blue) and a collection of pop art paintings so bright wearing sunglasses might be recommended.
Oh, and there’s also a right royal red Beefeater jacket which once belonged to Cyril Taylor of Killamarsh. He rose from the pits, via World War Two, to become chief Yeoman of the Queen’s Bodyguard, meaning he was the ceremonial soldier in charge of protecting both the monarch and the Tower of London. Elizabeth II’s official Christmas card from 1971 featured a picture of him sitting next to her.
His son Ronald Taylor donated the jacket - which is bright red because that was the colour chosen by Henry VII when the unit was formed - after Cyril passed away in 1984.
“It’s an amazing outfit,” says Kirstie. “But with something like that - as with a lot of the items in this exhibition - it doesn’t perhaps fit in naturally with other exhibitions so it hardly ever goes on show. This has given us a real chance to go through everything in Sheffield’s collection and display some of the lesser used items.”
Which includes that pineapple ice bucket. It’s colourful, alright.
“Why’s that here?” ponders Kirstie.
“Because it’s a fascinating piece of social history - it is an object which was of its time.
“And it’s also great to look at. We hope the whole exhibition will have a real cross-generation appeal.”
Colour Coded runs Saturday until January 26, 2014.